Stephen Thompson will headline a card for the third time in four fights at UFC Vegas 17, though he’ll take on Geoff Neal as the underdog’s pick after more than a year’s absence from the Octagon.
Both combatants will fight for the first time in 2020 on the final card to be held this year, but fireworks are all but guaranteed as the UFC looks to sign off a chaotic calendar on a high note.
“Wonderboy” (15-4) hasn’t competed since he beat Vicente Luque via unanimous decision in November 2019, while it’s almost a year to the day since Neal (13-2) collected a seventh straight win knocking out Mike Perry.
“Handz of Steel” comes into this meeting as the -120 favorite with William Hill odds for American customers, priced at almost twice those odds to seal an eighth straight win via knockout. However, +100 underdog Thompson is highly regarded as one of the best strikers in the UFC and has a puncher’s chance at the very least:
How good does #UFCVegas17 look this Saturday!?
? Stephen Thompson vs Geoff Neal
? Jose Aldo vs Marlon Vera
? Marcin Tybura vs Greg Hardy
? Anthony Pettis vs Alex Morono pic.twitter.com/RpagImIiMV
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) December 15, 2020
UFC Vegas 17 Betting Info
Date: Saturday, December 19
Venue: UFC Apex, Las Vegas, Nevada
Viewing Info: ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, ESPN+, UFC Fight Pass
Free Bets: William Hill, bet365
Early Prelims: 7 p.m. ET (12 a.m. GMT)
Prelims: 9 p.m. ET (2 a.m. GMT)
Thompson vs. Neal Odds Betting Preview
Thompson is 2-3-1 in his last six fights but has been unfortunate to take on a string of elite talents during that stretch. Tyron Woodley and Darren Till each defeated “Wonderboy” by decision but were in or around their career peaks to date, while former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis TKO’d the 37-year-old in March 2019, the only knockout Thompson has ever suffered.
The temptation is to believe Thompson is open to further blows after breaking that knockout drought, but there’s a reason why he’s stood up so well against top welterweight strikers until now. Neal has finished four of his five opponents since joining the UFC (three KOs, one submission), first attracting major attention for his head-kick KO of Frank Camacho in September 2018:
Geoff Neal fight week.
Here’s his vicious head kick KO vs Frank Camacho pic.twitter.com/wtzl8ANpNM
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) December 15, 2020
Thompson can launch one final lunge at the welterweight title with a win over Neal, which would secure him back-to-back UFC wins for the first time since 2016. While he may be past the regular fighter’s prime, Wonderboy has crafted a career on being able to beat his opponents over the full distance, seeing a final bell in six of his past seven bouts, three of which were over five rounds.
Handz of Steel has fast emerged as a vicious striker in this division himself, but Thompson’s kickboxing-karate style should stand up well in evading Neal’s power-centric paradigm.
Wonderboy appeals at +275 to win this clash via decision, odds that only look better if the elder fighter can make it over the halfway mark. It’s plausible their showdown will play out very similarly to the Luque showdown, with Neal a very similar (but threatening) prospect on paper.
Thompson vs. Neal Odds
Stephen Thompson: +100
Geoff Neal: -120
Prediction: Thompson via decision (+275)